- CLASSIC - McKay an innovator

Sunday, June 10
McKay an innovator

TAMPA, Fla. -- John McKay, a star at Oregon in the late 1940s who coached Southern California to four national football championships before becoming the first coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, died Sunday. He was 77.

McKay, who had been in the intensive care unit at St. Joseph's Hospital since last month, died at of kidney failure due to complications from diabetes, said Bucs spokesman Reggie Roberts.

McKay, who would have turned 78 on July 5, was by far the most colorful coach in Bucs history. In addition to a reputation for being innovative and having an eye for talent, he was well known for spicing up news conferences with quips and biting humor.

The Bucs lost their first 26 games under McKay, an NFL record, before rebounding to become the first expansion team to make it to a conference title game within it first four seasons in 1979.

In all, Tampa Bay made three playoff appearances and McKay compiled a 44-88-1 record before retiring after his ninth season in 1984. He remained the winningest coach in team history until Tony Dungy -- the only Bucs coach with a winning record -- surpassed him last season.

The Bucs lost 9-0 to the Los Angeles Rams in the 1979 NFC championship game and the team didn't win another post-season game under the Dungy-led Bucs beat Detroit in a first-round game in 1997. Tampa Bay got back to the conference final under Dungy in 1999, but lost 11-6 to the St. Louis Rams.

McKay's son Rich is the general manager of that team and has overseen the rebuilding process. Another son, J.K. McKay, played in the NFL and was general manager of the Los Angeles team that won the only XFL championship this season.

A native of Everettsville, W.Va., McKay enrolled at Purdue after serving in the Army Air Corps in World War II. He transferred to Oregon and teamed with Norm Van Brocklin to helped the Ducks go 9-1 in 1948 and earna trip to the Cotton Bowl.

He began his coaching career as an assistant at Oregon, turning down offers to go to work for the FBI or play pro ball for the New York Yankees of the All-American Football Conference in 1950.

McKay moved to Southern California as an assistant in 1959 and became head coach when Don Clark retired a year later. The Trojans went unbeaten and won the first of their national titles under McKay in the coach's third season.

Southern Cal went 127-40-8, won nine Pac-8 championships and only lost 17 conference games in 16 years under McKay. He coached 40 All-Americans at the Los Angeles school, including Heisman winners Mike Garrett and O.J. Simpson, quarterbacks Pat Haden and Bill Nelson, fullback Sam Cunningham, offensive linemen Ron Yary and Marvin Powell and receivers Lynn Swann, Bob Chandler and Earl McCullough.

The Trojans became known for outstanding tailbacks with Garrett, Simpson, Clarence Davis, Anthony Davis and Ricky Bell all flourishing in the I-formation system that McKay perfected in the 1960s.

Besides 1962, Southern Cal won national titles in 1967, 1972 and 1974. The Trojans also won five Rose Bowls and finished first or second in the Pac-8 13 times.

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